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Winter Founder

Winter founder. Two words that you usually don’t hear in the same sentence. And yet Bonnie has foundered and my neighbor has a mini that has also foundered. Both within the last two weeks.


Bonnie out on the pasture. She did have a good time!

On December 30th I let the girls out in the field with the boys to get some exercise and enjoy some pasture time. Neither of the girls has been out on the pasture since June. On December 31st when I went out to do chores, Bonnie was completely lame. She could hobble, but was clearly in pain. I quickly trimmed up her feet and put boots on her front feet. She is getting around quite well in the boots. When I take them off she is dead lame. There isn’t any heat in her feet at all and her neck is soft. I would even say her neck has gone down some since summer! The only change in her diet was the time they were allowed out on the pasture. So that little bit of old dead grass pushed her over the edge. I’m so sad. I’m totally heartsick about this. I know I caught it early and she is doing well with Ortho Sport applied once a day, wearing her Easyboot Minis. We have been -20 degrees out so I haven’t done a Raindrop Treatment on her, but I will as soon as it warms up to 30 degrees. I am so sad this happened after all my care this spring, summer and fall. I have been doing so much reading about founder and when the grass is ‘safe’. For Bonnie I have decided that grass is never safe, even apparently, in the dead of winter!

Before winter even I read this wonderful article called “When is dead grass safe to graze?”


Hmmm. Sounds familiar! And I even read this article this fall! I’m sure this gal shared her story to help other people avoid the pain of winter founder. Apparently I am a slow learner. Sigh.


The article does talk about a long hot summer that moved into a long hot fall with lots of wind and severe temperature drops which caused the grass to basically freeze dry. We did not have this happen though we did have a long warm fall. We had precipitation and we always get lots of wind. There isn’t ANY green left in my pasture, not even at the ground. And yet the grass must have too much sugar for Bonnie. The two boys have been out on the pasture since November. They are fine. No signs of founder, no sore feet and no cresty necks. Sky was out with everyone on the 30th and she is perfectly fine as well. This makes me think that Bonnie doesn’t digest her sugars well. I’m hoping she isn’t full blown IR (Insulin Resistant) like Chloe. Thankfully, she doesn’t mind being locked up in the dry lot. She doesn’t even mind if she is the only one locked up and everyone else is out on pasture. So that is a huge relief. The other positive is that I plan on driving her and she will be hiking with me this spring and summer so she’ll get lots of exercise. I can’t ride her 😉 so she’ll get all the benefits of exercise without the added stress of carrying extra weight! Stress causes the hormone Cortisol to spike which can also bring on a founder episode.

I have purchased AniMed Remission for Bonnie. It’s more affordable than the Heiro, even though I know how well that works, I just can’t afford it right now. I have started adding Magnesium to her Crypto Aero feed as well. I feed magnesium and white salt free in their shelter, but the snow blew in and covered the magnesium over and then froze so she hasn’t had access to it. I chipped away at it, but then decided to just add some to her daily ration until the Remission gets here. She is getting my first cut grass hay that was cut in the field, then it got rained on, then they turned it, let it dry and baled it. Hay like this has most if not all of the sugars washed out of it. It’s basically a filler! She is looking really good otherwise. So I know this hay is working for her. I do worry about what I’m going to do when I run out!


Bonnie eating her daily ration of Crypto Aero feed, 1/2 a cup with about a Tablespoon of Magnesium Citrate powder.

(On a side note: My neighbor’s mini foundered so badly that we had to put him on Banamine. She is feeding him grass hay and he has access to pasture, but has been out on pasture all summer and fall. She thinks he foundered when she put a heavy-on-alfalfa bale in the slow feed net and he gorged himself. They don’t really have any grass left in the pasture at this time… He is also getting Crypto Aero daily right now. She is ordering him a pair of Easyboots to help cushion his front feet.)

I will keep you updated on how the AniMed Remission works — or doesn’t work! Horse ownership can be so satisfying and full filling and just like that it can become heart breaking. But no one has ever said it’s easy!!

**Edited to add: Winter founder can be a different beast than regular spring founder due to grass… And now that I know more about winter founder it’s likely that the weather change is what brought this episode on for Bonnie. When a horse is metabolic they will often have problems with rapid temperature changes. This is part of why it is so difficult to manage horses with metabolic issues. Now February 17, 2018 we went from 40 degree days to -20 overnight and that caused Bonnie to become acutely laminitic. She’s been up and down and extremely lame for the last week and a half. Her feet have been ice cold. I keep two pairs of wool socks on her, hand warmers and Soft Ride boots on her at all times.

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